Question: What do Spike Lee, Katie Couric, Vanna White and this Next Avenue work and careers blogger have in common? Answer: All of us will turn 60 this year — along with 4.3 million other Americans born at the peak of the baby boom.
Traditionally, turning 60 meant that the end of your working days was fast approaching. The pressing question at 60 used to be: “When do you plan to retire?” But today, with nearly three quarters of boomers expressing interest in working part-time in retirement, the focus has shifted. Now, the more relevant question is: “What will you retire to?”
As a career coach, I know that finding a meaningful answer to that question won’t happen overnight. But the sooner you begin to research, explore and test out possibilities, the smoother your transition will be.
So, in honor of my 60th, I’ve compiled six ways people at 60 can launch their second-act career planning process, along with what I’m doing myself:
1. Start a Second Act Ideas File Once you begin to seriously pay attention to the question of “What’s next?” you’ll be amazed by all the helpful second-act stories, resources and ideas waiting to be discovered. But if you don’t have a central place to capture that information, you won’t be able to find it later when necessary.
That’s why I recommend creating two Second Act Idea Files. One would be a computer-based file using Dropbox or a spreadsheet. The other would be a good old-fashioned paper file folder. (I also make good use of my MacBook’s bookmark feature to capture second-act articles of interest). Setting up these files is easy and over time, you’ll build up an impressive storehouse of information that will come in handy when you’re ready for your second act.
Tips: Set-up a Google alert for the terms “second-act careers” or “work during retirement” so you’ll have a steady flow of inspiration delivered to your inbox on a regular basis. Another useful tool, if you don’t mind me saying, is this list of 100+ Great Second-Act Career Resources on my website, MyLifestyleCareer.com.
2. Try out new volunteer opportunities Thinking about using your second act to help the greater good? Start testing out a few nonprofits by volunteering while you’re still employed full-time. This will let you see which groups you’d want to spend time assisting once you retire.
Two years ago, I began volunteering as a literacy instructor for a local nonprofit. Over time, I’ve discovered that while I don’t love being a classroom teacher, I really do enjoy working with the immigrant population.
3. Take a class in a potential second-act area of interest Going back to school, even if it it’s just for a half-day workshop, is a low-risk way to test out your interest in second-act arenas. I recently signed up for a webinar on creating online classes, one of the income streams I hope to build in the near future.
While you’re still gainfully employed, don’t forget to take advantage of any company-sponsored training or tuition reimbursement benefits that might help diversify or enhance your second-act career credentials.
Tip: Professional industry associations, community colleges and online programs offer an impressive variety of inexpensive and short-term training options, as Next Avenue has explained.
4. Continue building your professional network This recommendation might strike you as counterintuitive. But if you hope to work in retirement, it’s likely that the best jobs, freelance gigs or partnership opportunities will come through your professional network. So don’t slack off your networking activities quite yet. Keep meeting with people over lunch, phone or email; share your thought leadership on LinkedIn and actively engage with colleagues at professional conferences.
Tip: Make a special effort to nurture relationships with the younger people in your network. They’re the ones who will likely be in charge at the point you seek a retirement gig.
5. Test out possible second-act locations Where you choose to live in retirement can impact the availability of your second-act career options. For example, a tourist destination might open up opportunities to work as a guide, while an urban location might have more plentiful jobs in the arts.
So use some of your vacation time over the next few years to test out places on your retirement relocation wish list. While there, talk with the locals, read the community papers and websites and evaluate the economic vitality of the area to help you see which might be the best fit.
My husband and I recently started to do this, making preliminary trips to a few North Carolina towns. We have no consensus yet on the perfect spot, but each visit gives us a better sense of what we would want — and wouldn’t.
Tip: Not sure which locations are best for a working retirement? Check out these articles: “25 Best Cities for a Working Retirement,” “The Best Cities for Retirement Jobs” and “The 10 Best Cities for Job Seekers Over 50.”
6. Take on a side gig to test the waters for a second-act idea Once you have a sense of what you might want to do next, you might launch a side gig to see how you’d like it.
For example, I recently worked with a client who is intrigued by the idea of being an adjunct professor in retirement. After some networking, he found an opportunity to teach an evening class in economics at his local community college. So far, it’s been a great experience and he now hopes to do even more teaching after leaving his full-time job.
One way to get a side gig going is to take on a part-time remote job. Flexjobs.com just published a helpful list of the Top 50 Companies to Watch for Part-Time Remote Jobs that you may want to check out.
Tip: Need help getting started as a freelancer? Here’s a Next Avenue article I wrote on navigating the gig economy.
Finally, do remember that milestone birthdays shouldn’t just be about work. They’re cause for celebration as well. After all, as Abraham Lincoln famously said: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
Cheers to celebrating the big 60 and here’s to many lively years ahead!